If you’re as excited about spring as we are, it’s not hard to find the motivation for a new garden project. Raised garden beds are great reason to get outside and enjoy the new season. Theyâ€™re easier to work in, are less prone to weeds, allow you to control your soil and have benefits related to the conservation of water. There are a number of things to consider before embarking, but fear not, weâ€™re going to take you through all of the key aspects youâ€™ll need to think about before you make your investment. So, letâ€™s get started. Hereâ€™s how to design the raised garden bed of your dreams!
Designing a Raised Garden Bed
A raised bed is an opportunity to customize a structure that youâ€™ll use for years to come to conform to your specifications. From height and width, to materials, to consideration for what types of vegetables or flowers you’ll be planting, youâ€™ll want to make an educated decision before taking the plunge.
Knowing how much growing space you require is one of the first and most important things to consider before getting started. If youâ€™re used to working with 100 square feet of growing space in your in-ground garden beds, it would be ideal to match or even expand this space when youâ€™re deciding how large you want your beds to be. Once you have determined what kind of space you want to work with, itâ€™s a good idea to begin plotting out where your new beds will go. When doing this, consider how much space youâ€™ll want between beds, how wide you want your beds to be, and if you’ll be allotting enough space for each plant you plan to grow. If planting flowers in your raised bed, you will be able to plant them much closer together than a bed filled with vegetables and herbs, thanks to the shallower root system of flowers.
We recommend that your garden beds be about 4 feet wide or under. This allows for ease of use when working in themâ€”you’ll be able to easily reach into the middle of the bed and beyond from either side. Any wider, and youâ€™ll find it difficult to take care of without having to crawl into the beds, putting your precious plants at risk of being crushed. Once you have your plot and your width worked out, you can figure out how many beds youâ€™ll need to accomplish your square footage requirements.
Letâ€™s say your beds can be a maximum of 12 feet long due to available space. If your beds will be 4 feet wide, each bed will provide about 48 square feet of growing space. This tell us weâ€™d need two beds to meet our 100 square feet growing requirement.
Now that youâ€™ve got the growing area worked out, itâ€™s time to think about height. Consider a height that will make working in your raised beds as easy as possible. Remember, weâ€™re trying to do two things with the heightâ€”make work easier and make it harder for weed seeds to find their way into your beds. Having said that, a balance is needed. The taller your beds become, the more biomass and/or soil youâ€™ll need to fill them up. Check with your local soil provider to get an idea of pricing. Itâ€™s also a good idea to use a tool like this Cubic Yard calculator to determine how many yards of soil youâ€™ll need to fill your beds.
Access to Water
This might sound obvious, but without easy access to a water supply, your garden beds will become more of a chore than theyâ€™re worth. Consider a watering system as you configure your design. Research what types of plants you’ll be growing in your raised garden beds, and how much water they will require to thrive. A vegetable or herb-filled garden bed may require significantly more water over the growing season than a bed filled with flowers. A simple watering system will help conserve water by delivering it directly to the plants and will allow you to water at times you might not be available. Try to have your water access figured out and implemented before your beds are built so you can achieve the clean, natural look you want without having to drag a hose all over your garden!
This is a critical consideration. The materials you use will determine a lotâ€”from the initial cost to how long your beds last. A very popular material to use is wood. However, as any carpenter will tell you, not all woods are the same. Some woods, like cedar, redwood and cypress, do a much better job of standing up to moisture, insects and other elements that will attack your garden beds than, say, an untreated pine. While these options are far more expensive, they will add years to the life of your bedsâ€”and they look great as well! Untreated and treated pine are both also options, however, as mentioned above, untreated will rot relatively quickly. Treated wood is generally not recommended by experts in organic gardening, as there are fears of treatment chemicals leaching into the soil, impacting your plant health and the health of beneficial microbes.
Wood isnâ€™t your only option, however. Stone and brick are also good optionsâ€”although they require a much larger investment. Despite thisâ€”they will last a lifetime. Another option which has gained more popularity lately is using galvanized sheet tanks or sheet metal. These can last a very long time and have the added bonus of being relatively budget friendly.
For hardware, we recommend using high quality stainless steel screws. These will last a very long time, stand up to moisture and the elements, and make any future repairs easier to manage.
Once youâ€™ve decided on these important factors, youâ€™ll be able to give your garden beds the exact look you like. If you need some style inspiration, search Google, Pinterest or Houzz for beds using the materials youâ€™ve chosen. Youâ€™ll get a cornucopia of options that will make it far easier to settle on the right look for you. Now that youâ€™re equipped with the considerations necessary to design the raised bed that will be the envy of the entire neighborhoodâ€”go get started!